How We Built The Most Reliable Software Capture for the Classroom. Again.
Echo360 has always had the most reliable capture options available for the education market. In large part, this has been due to our purpose-built hardware appliances like the PRO and the POD that are up to ten times more reliable than traditional software capture on a PC. However, as our clients continue to expand the scope of classroom recording more broadly across their campuses, they are using software-based capture in a growing number of classrooms and venues. This makes sense – installing software capture on an existing classroom PC is often the easiest and most affordable way to enable a room for video, so it’s not surprising that it is a fast growing segment of our platform (Incidentally, Echo360 licenses include unlimited use of Classroom Capture software across an institution’s campus locations). However, the key is to support this use case while still providing the high quality and reliability expected from institutions as capture becomes mission critical for instructors and their students.
Echo360’s Classroom Capture is a software-based solution designed for this purpose, and provides high quality video along with support for automated capture scheduling and live streaming. Given the growth in software capture among our clients, we decided it was time to make a significant update to our Classroom Capture solution to make it even more reliable. We know that students rely on video for learning, and we recognize the cost of a lost capture and the consequences to student outcomes. The reality is that most PC-based capture failures are the result of problems outside the capture software itself, such as a system crash or a USB device coming unplugged. To address these situations, we have added additional system monitoring and automation to make our Classroom Capture software even smarter about adjusting on the fly to changes in the classroom environment and various inputs and configurations.
System crashes and reboots are the hardest to deal with. While we can’t prevent Windows from crashing or stop a student from tripping over a cord and unplugging a PC, we can make recovery from a restart more graceful, and we have. So now, when the system reboots during a capture, the recording will resume when the system comes back online and the software will automatically stitch the video segments together into a single file and publish it as expected. There will be an unavoidable gap, but the capture is saved.
The next most common cause of software capture failure is lost or changed inputs during recording. Whether the instructor switches from a webcam to a smart board, or accidentally turns off a microphone, these types of changes traditionally result in lost captures, but not anymore.
Above you can see what happens if the video input is lost or changed. The Echo360 software checks to see if another video source is available, and intelligently fails over to it, notifying the instructor of the change. So, for example, if the instructor unplugged a webcam and plugged in a smart board, the software switches on the fly the capture continues as planned.
Lost audio is another cause of failed captures. No matter how high the quality of the video, without an audio source it is largely useless to students. We’ve made sure that instructors will no longer record their class with their microphone off or unplugged. The software will now wait for an audio source, and if one doesn’t exist, alert the instructor to remedy the situation. Once audio is available, the capture will proceed, as pictured above.
These are just a few of the many changes that we’ve made to our Classroom Capture software to make it smarter and more reliable. We think the reliability of software capture will now approach that of our dedicated hardware, but as always we will continue to evaluate options for improvement, and we can’t wait to hear your feedback. This is, without a doubt, the most reliable software capture available, so make sure to upgrade your classroom PCs as soon as possible. Echo360 administrators can download the new version now from our downloads page or complete the auto-update process on existing installs.
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